History of Can Am in supercross?

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3/16/2021 6:14 PM

On the broadcast they just said Jimmy Ellis won Dallas supercross on a Can Am in the 70s. That's a little before my time. Can anyone give me a lesson on the history of their bikes and who rode them?

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3/16/2021 6:49 PM

Im pretty sure Jim Ellis won the 1975 Superbowl of MX at the L.A. coliseum.

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3/16/2021 6:50 PM

I started following the sport in 1980. Can Am was barely relevant at that time. But they did have Jim Holley racing on a liquid cooled works bike.


Photoholley by Tracie Asbell, on Flickr

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3/16/2021 6:56 PM

They were built by Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, had Rotax rotary valve 2 strk engines, Bombardier is famous for Ski doo and Sea doo.

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3/16/2021 7:04 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/16/2021 7:08 PM

Jimmy Ellis won the 250 (450) title on a Can am in 1975. I think there were 4 events in the series that year. Can am was pretty much dead as far as pro racing by the early 80s as stated above and starting in 1983 the were rebadged Armstrongs made in the UK. They were done making dirt bikes by the late 80s.

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3/16/2021 7:06 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/16/2021 7:06 PM

Donnie Hansen earned his factory Honda ride by having some good rides on the Canned Ham. cool He did better than he should of on the orange bike.

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Ed Johnson

3/16/2021 7:13 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/16/2021 7:22 PM

Nairb#70 wrote:

They were built by Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, had Rotax rotary valve 2 strk engines, Bombardier is famous for Ski doo ...more

Wow so they were rotary valve engines. I was wondering if that might be the case. Thats pretty cool.. How did they compare to the regular bikes? I don't mean better or worse, I mean the character of the mitir?

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3/16/2021 7:16 PM

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1983 Can Am (Armstrong) 125mx
Fork mounted radiator ala Yamaha.
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3/16/2021 7:19 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/16/2021 7:20 PM

Nairb#70 wrote:

They were built by Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, had Rotax rotary valve 2 strk engines, Bombardier is famous for Ski doo ...more

kage173 wrote:

Wow so they were rotary valve engines. I was wondering if that might be the case. Thats pretty cool.. How did they compare to ...more

Rotary valve intake but a normal piston engine. Not an actual rotary/wankel.

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3/16/2021 7:21 PM

ATKpilot99 wrote:

Jimmy Ellis won the 250 (450) title on a Can am in 1975. I think there were 4 events in the series that year. Can am was ...more

That may be true for motocross, but Can-Am continued making amazing enduro machines into the mid/late 80s. Can-Am were one of the more popular brands in the woods in the late 80s in my area (N Georgia)

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Ride like a girl!!!
2016 KTM 500 EXC-F
Current project: 2007 Kawasaki KX250-R7 retro build
Current project #2: 1987 Kawasaki KX250-E1 rider/racer resto
1989 KX125 resto
1987 RM250 resto

3/16/2021 7:24 PM

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Ride like a girl!!!
2016 KTM 500 EXC-F
Current project: 2007 Kawasaki KX250-R7 retro build
Current project #2: 1987 Kawasaki KX250-E1 rider/racer resto
1989 KX125 resto
1987 RM250 resto

3/16/2021 7:26 PM

Nairb#70 wrote:

They were built by Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, had Rotax rotary valve 2 strk engines, Bombardier is famous for Ski doo ...more

kage173 wrote:

Wow so they were rotary valve engines. I was wondering if that might be the case. Thats pretty cool.. How did they compare to ...more

DownSouth wrote:

Rotary valve intake but a normal piston engine. Not an actual rotary/wankel.

Lol yeah caught myself on that.

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3/16/2021 7:55 PM

Can-Am also won the 250 national championship with Gary Jones.

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3/16/2021 8:08 PM

lostboy819 wrote:

Donnie Hansen earned his factory Honda ride by having some good rides on the Canned Ham. cool He did better than he should of on ...more

Yep, I remember watching him race the Can Am at the Superbowl of Motocross (1979 and 7th place) and the next year he was on Honda.

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3/16/2021 10:33 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/16/2021 10:38 PM

Here's Buck Murphy, (RIP), and his works Can-Am at his place back in 1998.

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“Adhering to 1970’s Standards of Political Correctness”

3/17/2021 12:54 AM

8 Supercross Wins
Won the Superbowl of Motocross Twice (75 &76)
Won Daytona
Won all 4 races in the 1975 250 SX Title


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Yeah, he was Fast!
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3/17/2021 5:07 AM

Wandell wrote:

I started following the sport in 1980. Can Am was barely relevant at that time. But they did have Jim Holley racing on a ...more

That bike was a pile, I don’t think it survived one outdoor race.

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3/17/2021 5:18 AM

They did break. The Japanese bikes at the time were just getting better and more durable each year and can-am didn’t.

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3/17/2021 5:24 AM

tmphotoart wrote: 8 Supercross Wins
Won the Superbowl of Motocross Twice (75 &76)
Won Daytona
Won all 4 races in the 1975 250 SX Title


Photo

...more

And then he got smart and moved to Australia

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3/17/2021 5:42 AM

The Martin Brothers dad John? Raced them offroad as well. May have won a title. Im going to Google it.lol

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3/17/2021 5:46 AM

Grew up worshiping Jimmy Ellis. Every NESC motocrosser in mid 70’s New England was a fan. He was a god at Southwick. Seems like lots of the fast guys were on Can-Ams. They didn’t have head-gaskets, as I recall. I briefly had a 175 junker in the 80’s. Jimmy’s dad drove the Kawasaki big rig for years and, I believe Jimmy settled in Australia.....

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3/17/2021 7:34 AM

Hands down the fastest 250 in the mid 70's, stock or modified.

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3/17/2021 7:58 AM

We may not have seen the last of them either, BRP bought a number of Alta's assets:

http://ir.brp.com/news-releases/news-release-details/brp-purchases-select-assets-alta-motors-part-its-ongoing

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3/17/2021 8:36 AM

FYI, note sure if this site has been shared yet: https://www.canned-ham.com/mx/

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3/17/2021 8:55 AM

i think in the early to mid 70's all their models had fast motors.

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3/17/2021 8:58 AM

Rupert X wrote:

Grew up worshiping Jimmy Ellis. Every NESC motocrosser in mid 70’s New England was a fan. He was a god at Southwick. Seems ...more

I think he was in the states a couple of years ago and raced at Central Village, CT. I also remember seeing him in an indoor 125 SX in Providence, RI around 1983. It wasn't arena cross or AMA SX just an indoor race IIRC. An indoor mud fest. He came in first and Jim Gibson was second.

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3/17/2021 9:02 AM

I thought they had the best looking MX bike in the early 70scool and then the worst. sick
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Ed Johnson

3/17/2021 12:16 PM

backinthesaddleagain wrote:

I think he was in the states a couple of years ago and raced at Central Village, CT. I also remember seeing him in an indoor ...more

It was 1983 and I think it was a regional arenacross in Providence. JT broke his back racing in Australia in ‘82 and came back to Connecticut to heal up. I ran the New England Cycle Works racing team in ‘82 & ‘83 and also grew up in the next town over from Jimmy but he’s a few years older than me. I even did an interview with him for our high school newspaper in 1979.

Anyway, I got ahold of Jimmy to see what his plans were and ended up offering him basically bikes and parts to race NESC with no commitment... basically if he got a better offer he was free to take it. The shop owner, Eddie Rosen (RIP) and I wanted to give the New England legend the opportunity to recover and rebuild. Jimmy’s dad, George, handled the mechanic duties and wow, what an eye-opening experience it was learning from George... he was amazing.

We hadn’t planned to race the Providence arenacross but Jimmy was feeling great and wanted to race it. I think it ran Friday and Saturday and he raced the 125 and 250 classes. On Sunday, there was a NESC race was at Southwick.

I think JT won one class and maybe second or third in the other because he broke his finger when he hit something (wooden stake maybe?) going through a turn. He didn’t crash. If I remember correctly, he broke his left hand ring finger and had to cut off his wedding ring because his finger swelled up pretty badly. But Jimmy was happy with his results and even won enough to buy a Kawasaki GPZ 750 Turbo (at dealer cost, of course).

The next day we went to Southwick and Jimmy tried to ride but was in too much pain and decided not to race. I was an NESC Expert (A class) but was on the comeback from surgery, was completely out of shape and had only ridden a couple of times since the surgery. But Southwick was and is still my favorite track so I asked JT if I could race his George Ellis tuned CR 250 and he said yes. We then got the okay from Andy C. We barely had time to get ready for the first moto (I missed practice) and had to borrow Jimmy’s gear too. We put duct tape over his name on the jersey (Team Tamm gear, BTW) and slapped an electrical tape “X” on the #2 plates. I wear size 11 boots but wedged my feet into his size 9 boots and headed for the starting line.

That bike was amazing and I ripped a good start and made a couple of quick passes into second or third. The first two laps were so much fun but then arm pump and overall fatigue started to slow me down and I couldn’t finish the 20+2 moto. I knew before the gate dropped that I’d never finish the moto but I just wanted to ride JT’s bike at The Wick.

Because it was last minute, the announcer didn’t know that I was riding the bike so he thought it was JT at first. It wasn’t too bad while I was up front but once I started to fade, Jimmy got a little pissed because the announcer kept saying there’s something wrong with Jimmy Ellis. I was making him look bad. They figured it out when they noticed the duct tape on the jersey and the “2X” on the plates LOL! Anyway, Jimmy and I hadn’t ridden together since I was an Amateur (B class) and we only rode in the woods. Jimmy told me after the race that he had no idea I could ride that well so it was a good day indeed. I had a blast that weekend and especially that day at Southwick.

Soon after that weekend, JT flew to Australia and made a deal to return to race. When he flew back to the US to wrap things up here, the first thing he did was jump on his Kawasaki GPZ Turbo and go for a blast down the street. The first car coming the opposite way was driving on the wrong side of the road and heading straight for JT. He cut into the opposite lane at the last second as the car flew past! It was close and definitely spooked him as he wondered what the f*#k was wrong with the person in the car. Then he realized what just happened. He was in the USA and not Australia. HE was on the wrong side of the road! He rode home and parked the bike for a couple of days LOL.

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3/17/2021 1:15 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/17/2021 1:21 PM

Travis707 wrote:

It was 1983 and I think it was a regional arenacross in Providence. JT broke his back racing in Australia in ‘82 and came back ...more

Thats a great story. Did you run the New England Pro Racing Team? I remember some guys in NE going to race an event in Trinidad and Tobago?? I didn't start NESC until 1984 and I remember a friend of mine loaning another friend his CR125 to race that Providence race, and another friend loaning one of the Dirt Rider mag guys (Mark Kariya)?? a KTM 125. I think both bikes probably overheated in the mud. I remember the NE Cycle Works jerseys, and i was over at Razees 1984-1986. Still friends with those who are still there 30+ years later.

IIRC his Dad was at Loudon Classic some year in the 80s perhaps hauling for a factory road race team? If not then at least watching the races.

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3/17/2021 7:27 PM

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I had one. It was my first bike a -1975 Can-Am 125MX2. Bought it new when I was 15 with cash from my part time job. Rotary valve oil injected engine with an advertised 24hp.
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